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VLSI – uses and importance in the semiconductor industry

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Very large-scale integration or VLSI is a process in which millions of MOS transistors are combined and integrated on a single semiconductor microchip. With the global semiconductor revenue crossing USD 440 Billion in 2020, there is an increasing need to design and produce highly efficient and specialized chips that can power new age technologies such as AI/ML, IoT, AR/VR, Cloud etc., which are increasingly becoming mainstream instead of remaining niche technologies. Growth in consumer electronics, computing devices, post pandemic, smartphones, intelligent vehicles etc., has further increased the demand.

Depending upon the number of components (Transistors) to be integrated, ICs are categorized as SSI, MSI, LSI, VLSI, ULSI & GSI.

Small Scale Integration (SSI): 1-100 Transistors were fabricated on a single chip. eg Gates , Flipflops.

Medium Scale Integration (MSI): 100-1000 number of Transistors could be integrated on a single chip. eg 4 bit Microprocessors.

Large Scale Integration : 1000-10000 Transistors could be integrated on a single chip. eg 8 bit Microprocessors, RAM, ROM

Very Large Scale Integration(VLSI): 10000 – 1 Million Transistors could be accommodated. Eg 16-32 bit Microprocessors.

Ultra Large Scale Integration(ULSI): 1 Million-10 Million Transistors could be accommodated. Eg Special Purpose Registers.

Giant Scale Integration (GSI): More than 10 Million Transistors could be accommodated. Eg Embedded Systems.

Before VLSI, ICs could only perform a limited number of functions and electronic circuits incorporate a CPU, RAM, ROM, and other peripherals on a circuit board (PCBA). However, after this technology got introduced, millions of transistors and all these functions can now be embedded into a single microchip, thus enabling complex semiconductor and telecommunication technologies to be developed.

The advancement in electronics is largely due to the VLSI technologies and its rapid adoption.


What are the advantages of VLSI?

  1. Circuit sizes are reduced 
  2. Improved performance and speed
  3. Effective cost reduced
  4. Requires less power and produces less heat
  5. Increased reliability
  6. Requires less space


Where is the VLSI technology used?

VLSI circuits are used everywhere, including microprocessors in a personal computer, chips in a graphic card, digital camera or camcorder, chips in a cell phone, embedded processors, and safety systems like anti-lock braking systems in an automobile, personal entertainment systems, medical electronic systems etc.

VLSI technology is well suited to the demands of today’s electronic devices and systems. With the ever-increasing demand for shrinking in size, compactness, performance, reliability, and functionality, VLSI technology is expected continue to drive electronics advancement. In addition, as India expands its electronics system design and manufacturing capabilities, the number of job opportunities is also expected to grow in the VLSI design area, making a lucrative career option for many.